Before photography, the landscape was only used as a backdrop for the primary subject. However, towards the late 18th century, the landscape was used as the primary subject by artists such as John Constable and William Turner. They romanticised the environment around them, to display the landscape as something worth looking at.
When photography was invented, it was used to document the environment around us for educational and historical purposes as this was a time when western civilisations were exploring the new lands.
Pictorial photography was the first photographic movement in which photographers began using the landscape in different ways other than collecting information. They used their images for effect and to convey mood.
Technology hadn’t advanced for photography at this time, and photographers found their lenses were recording too much detail and wanted their images to reflect the softness of paintings and drawings. To produce such results, the photographers began to use techniques which included print manipulation, to decrease the focus and create depth.
In contrast to this point, naturalism was brought about in 1889 by Dr Peter Henry Emerson who believed photography should be seen as an independent art form, away from painting. Photography was promoted as an aesthetic medium by Alfred Stieglitz in 1902 through his exhibit “Photo Sessionists” which featured nonconformist pictorial images of everyday objects.
Group F64 was initiated and they broke away from pictoral photography. Prominent photographers including Edward Weston and Ansel Adams were members of the group, and the pictures that came from this group used large format cameras, with the smallest apertures. They wanted all the sharpness they could get.
The photographer’s emotion and ideas can be seen through their landscape work, by use of light, symbolic reference and design. Photography is a powerful tool to communicate self-expression and convey the photographer’s personal vision. Landscape photography is more than just a record of history, it can now be used as a way to explore the personal relationship we have with the environment, it is a tool of discovery and a tool for depicting the beauty of the natural landscape.